My history choosing Italian restaurants: There have been moments of greatness; the rest blend together in a sea of mediocrity.
I always go in hopeful; since moving to the Upper East Side, I’ve been particularly intrigued with Caffe Buon Gusto, which has dual patios — need I say more? There is a slightly-elevated, street-facing patio and a cozy, vine-covered patio out back; really, it was only a matter of time.
The back patio lived up to expectation: Small, round, tiled tables; vines draping everywhere; candles casting a pleasant glow. I’d come back just to hang out, have an appetizer and drink some wine … if the wine list was a little more interesting.
The food? It was … fine. Which is my problem with Italian food most of the time. It’s rarely bad, but rarely great.
My spinach salad (called the Fiorentina salad) came tossed in a creamy, vaguely tangy (yogurt? sour cream?) dressing and topped with sliced mushrooms and diced pancetta, which was salty even by my standards (and I love salt). The portion was substantial; I could have probably stopped here.
But we also split an order pasta from the choose-your-pasta, choose-your-sauce menu: homemade cheese tortellini, pesto.
I am no connoisseur of Italian cuisine, but I think pesto, I think fresh herbs pounded into a pulp, mixed with good things like garlic and olive oil. Our tortellini turned up in something more like a cream sauce with some herbs blended in — let’s put it this way, if you were lactose intolerant, this would become an issue. Sigh. Let’s just say, the patio and the company saved this meal from the mediocrity abyss.